The Lakers announced on Friday that guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is day-to-day with a slight left knee contusion as the club prepares for Game 4 of Round 1 of the NBA playoffs.
After departing Thursday night’s 109-95 win over the Phoenix Suns with 4:16 left in the third quarter, Caldwell-Pope underwent an MRI on Friday, which revealed no structural damage. He collided with Suns player Devin Booker and tumbled to the ground, but he was able to make his way back to the bench on his own. With a left quad injury, the Lakers ruled him out.
With Thursday’s win, the Lakers seized a 2-1 series lead against the Suns. The series concludes with Game 4 on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
What makes him so valuable to the Lakers?
Lakers beat writer Jovan Buha: Caldwell-Pope is the finest 3-and-D winger on the Lakers. He’s their finest shooter and a natural fit for any starting lineup. Caldwell-Pope is a key part of Los Angeles’ identity since his defensive performance often leads to transition points, and few players are faster on the break than Caldwell-Pope.
He’s been chasing Devin Booker all over the field and through on- and off-ball screens. Despite the fact that he has yet to make a shot in the series, he is still a 3-point threat that Phoenix respects when he is not on the court.
Who will take his place if he isn’t available?
Buha: Wesley Matthews, a long-time starter and the Laker with the most similar skill set to Caldwell-Pope, would be the most likely successor for Caldwell-Pope, though it’s worth mentioning that Caldwell-Pope is better on both ends.
Against Booker, Matthews should fill in as a 25-minute option. Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, and possibly Talen Horton-Tucker will see increased minutes as a result of the rotation’s trickle-down impact. Caldwell-loss Pope’s will be felt most in his floor-spacing, since there isn’t another Laker shooter who commands the Suns’ defense’s respect.
(Photo courtesy of NBAE/Getty Images/Adam Pantozzi)